ISSUE 39  |  Fall Foliage

Dahlia Days: Sam McKnight’s Spectacular September Garden

September 29, 2015 9:00 AM

BY Kendra Wilson

Sam McKnight’s expertise as one of the fashion world’s top hairdressers keeps him in close contact with glamorous people but far away, sadly, from his London garden. In between shows at Milan Fashion Week, he told us about his growing dahlia collection:

Photography by Jim Powell for Gardenista.

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Above: Sam gave his London garden an overhaul this year with the help of landscape designer Jo Thompson. The more he plants, the more he wants. Recently, Sam’s passion for peonies around his birthday has been overtaken by a “fabulous array of outrageous dahlias.” He explains: “They arrive in my garden in August and keep strutting their funky stuff until the first frosts in November.”

(For more, see Instagram Insider: An Intimate Look at the London Garden of Sam McKnight).

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Above: Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’.

Sam loves to photograph his blooms and is a good source of inspiration for his followers on Instagram. “Dahlias are incredibly photogenic,” he says. “They’re ideal for cut flowers in a vase, or posing as tall as Naomi Campbell in heels, waiting to be admired in a patch of cosmos.”

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Above: The foliage and height of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’ complement the paler dahlias.

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Above: A happy specimen from the ‘Dahlia pom pom mixed’ bag. Its tubers arrived with other mixed bags of ‘dinner plate’, ‘cactus’ and ‘honka’ dahlias. Besides these intended mixtures, single specimens became muddled, as is so often the case, and were planted at intervals. It all adds to the enjoyment: “I am constantly and pleasantly surprised,” says Sam.

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Above: The wonderfully named dahlia ‘Cabana Banana’ (Right), next to ‘Café au Lait’. Says Sam: “These are the flowers that bring a smile to my face for the last few months of the year.”

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Above: Dahlia ‘Purple Gem’, one of the many hundreds of dahlias planted this year in Sam’s garden.

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Above: Dahlia ‘Worton Blue Streak’.

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Above: Rudbeckia, a perfect foil for the hotter dahlia hues.

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Above: Dahlia ‘Urchin’.

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Dahlia ‘Orange Queen.’

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Above: Enormous dahlia ‘Black Jack’, which can reach 10″ in diameter. “Dahlias are flowers that keep on giving,” says Sam. “My surprise jamboree bag this year is the best money I ever spent.”

Thinking about dahlias for next year? See: